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Friday, May 13, 2016

PRISON FELLOWSHIP MALAYSIA – 'THE WAY FORWARD'

Reported by DaliusLL
SOCCOM Sandakan
Subang : Three volunteers of the St Mary's Cathedral Prison Ministry  attended a three-day Prison Fellowship Malaysia (PFM) Conference on 30th April to 2nd May 2016, in a leading hotel in Kuala Lumpur.  They are among the 10 participants representing the Sandakan Christian Inter-Church Prison Ministry. The event was attended by around 100 delegates throughout the country.  
 Participants from the Sandakan-Inter-Church Prison Ministry
This is the first national level Prison Conference ever organized since its inception 15 years ago. PFM is made up of 4 regions; namely the PFM Sabah, PFM Sarawak, PFM Peninsula North and PFM Peninsula South. Each region has its own committee known as Chapters, overseeing the states or districts assigned under their purview. 
 Catholic delegates from the Diocese of Sandakan
For Sabah region, PFM comes under the Sabah Council of Churces (SCC) located in Kota Kinabalu, Sandakan, Tawau, Keningau and Labuan.  The Sabah Chapter ministers to the KK Prison, Sandakan Prison, Tawau Prison, Labuan Prison, Kem Paradise Kota Belud, Sekolah Tunas Bakti and Henry Gurney School in Keningau.
The Conference commenced with PFM Annual General Meeting for new office bearers for a two-year term on the first day, 30th April 2016. The delegates  unanimously elected the present President Dr. Tan Kah Hock to spearhead PFM for the 2016 -2018 term, with Mr. Prem Kumar as the CEO.  
In the evening, the delegates assembled at the Dining Hall for a fellowship and welcoming dinner. They took the opportunity to interact with each other, building relationship bond.
After the sumptuous meal, all proceeded to the Convention Hall for a praise and worship session followed by interesting and inspiring sharings, experiences and testimonies from the prison volunteers from across the country.
Day two, 1st May, the newly elected PFM President gave a welcoming address and introduced the appointed members of the PFM Board of Directors.  

The 1st session was a talk on the theme of the Conference, ‘The Way Forward’ by the Asia Pacific Prison Fellowship Director. The session was designed to help prison volunteers focus on their area of ministry, provide encouragement and sharpen one’s skills in utilizing the tools available for prison ministry. 
The 2nd session was a talk on the Roles and Responsibilities of Jabatan Penjara Malaysia, permit application, procedures to be observed and the do’s and don’ts as religious volunteers presented by a senior officer of the Prison Department. 

In the afternoon the conference resumed with a dialogue session with the new Board of Directors as panelists. The session has indeed provided answers to confusions, empowered the volunteers to minister effectively and inspired the volunteers in deepening their understanding of their ministry. 
The 3rd session was about 'Justice and Reconciliation' facilitated by the CEO, Mr. Prem Kumar. During the session, a lady lawyer prison ministry volunteer gave some valuable and interesting sharing on the subject for the delegates to digest and improve on. The night session was the praise and worship session where participants were grouped into small groups of 5 – 8 people, praying for one another.
Day three, 2nd May, the last day of the Conference, the CEO gave a talk on  'Introduction to the Criminal Justice System.' The talk was about restorative justice whereby an effort by PFM and in collaboration with an NGO Restorative Justice to uphold justice and righteousness in the criminal Justice System. This would include holding dialogues and initiating reforms in the prison, with police, together with lawyers and judges and the Courts of Justice. 
The Conference concluded with a Communion Service and a closing prayer at exactly noon. Thereafter all the delegates adjourned for lunch before checking out.
The three-day conference, not only focused on events that help volunteers increase their effectiveness but it has also refreshed their commitment in reaching out to the inmates. 
The cordial interaction among the brother and sister volunteers has encouraged members to remain connected and embrace each other in promoting the mission of Christ.
Sharing from Sr. Appollonia fsic

First of all, I praise and thank God for the opportunity granted to me to attend this so called "National Conference of Prison Fellowship Malaysia" at a 5-Star Hotel.  I thank, especially Bro. Joseph, the Chairperson of Sandakan Prison Fellowship for inviting me to come for the conference.
This Conference is indeed a very enriching and encouraging event whereby the participants came from the different Christian denominations serving in 41 prisons all over Malaysia. The presence of the participants is a sign of unity among Christian Churches in Malaysia.
The testimonies of the participants regarding their experiences, their zeal and their dedication serving in prisons in spite of the challenges are inspiring. It has helped me to appreciate and encouraged me to have greater zeal to do more for the inmates where I am assigned to.
I am always reminded of the words in the Gospel each time when I visit the prison; "I was in prison and you came to visit Me. Then the righteous will answer Him . . . when did we see You sick, or in prison, and come to You? And the King will answer and say to them, assuredly, I say to you, inasmuch as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to Me (Matthew 25:36).
I pray and hope that many more lay people especially from our Church are willing to offer their services to the Prison Ministry for God is indeed present in the people (Church) behind the iron bars.
It is also my heart's desire that my involvement in this prison ministry will help the inmates to stay faithful and remain dedicated to their Catholic faith.

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